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Flight Training Finance: How To Finance Your Pilot Training

Flight training finance refers to the various options aspiring pilots can utilize to fund the costs of obtaining their licenses, ratings, and aviation degrees. With the ever-increasing cost of flying lessons, finding ways to pay for training is crucial for making your aviation dreams a reality. Whether using loans, grants, personal savings or other funding sources, proper planning and research is key to keeping flight school affordable. This comprehensive guide will explore the most popular flight training finance options available to help you gain your wings without breaking the bank.

Flight Training Finance in the USA

Financial Aid

Some flight schools offer financial aid packages and scholarships to qualified students. These are awarded based on financial need, academic merit, or other criteria set by the school or sponsoring organization. Examples include:

  • Needs-based grants and scholarships – Awarded based on financial need as demonstrated on your FAFSA application. Amounts vary.
  • Merit-based scholarships – Awarded based on GPA, test scores, extracurricular activities, etc. Typically $500 – $5,000.
  • Military/ROTC scholarships – Full tuition in exchange for service commitment. Offered by Air Force, Navy, Army, and Coast Guard.
  • Aviation organization scholarships – Various aviation associations and nonprofits offer scholarships up to several thousand dollars.

Applying for all potential scholarships, even small ones, can help reduce overall costs. Tax-free stipends offered through ROTC programs can also help cover flight costs.

Student Loans

Federal and private student loans are an option for funding aviation training and related education. Options include:

Federal Student Loans

  • Direct Subsidized Loans – Up to $5,500 – $12,500 per year depending on grade level and dependency status. Need-based.
  • Direct Unsubsidized Loans – Up to $20,500 per year for undergrads; $40,500 for graduate students. Not need-based. 
  • PLUS Loans – Loans to graduate students or parents of undergrads. Credit check required. 

Federal loans often offer lower interest rates and more protections compared to private loans. Payment is deferred until 6 months after graduation or dropping below half-time enrollment.

Private Student Loans

Private student loans can help bridge the gap if federal loans are not enough. They typically require a credit check and cosigner. Interest rates vary. Compare lenders to find the best rates and terms. Many aviation-specific lenders offer private loans tailored to flight students.

Personal Savings and Income

For students who already have an income, saving up money through work or limiting expenses can allow you to pay for training over time. Getting a side job while in flight school can help supplement costs. Having some cash savings or disposable income is key if you want to minimize debt.

Employer Tuition Reimbursement 

Some employers offer tuition assistance or reimbursement programs as an employee benefit. This allows workers to pursue continued education with partial or full tuition coverage. Policies differ by company, but many will cover training costs for degrees or licenses that relate to your career goals at the organization. Check with your HR department to learn more.

VA/GI Bill Benefits

Veterans can use their GI Bill benefits to cover flight training costs. This includes the Post 9/11 and Montgomery GI Bills. Details vary based on your military status:

  • Active duty – Tuition assistance (TA) programs may cover $250-$4,500 per fiscal year.
  • Reserve/National Guard – May qualify for up to 100% of training costs through Federal Tuition Assistance (FTA) program.
  • Veterans – Post 9/11 GI Bill covers up to $26,000 per year; Montgomery GI Bill covers over $2,000 per month.

Consult with your base education office to determine what VA education benefits you qualify for and how they can be applied to civilian flight training. 

Grants and Local Programs

Some states and local governments offer aviation training grants or funding. For example:

  • Area Health Education Centers (AHECs) – Some AHECs offer rural aviation training grants.
  • State aviation associations – Occasionally have scholarship programs.
  • Airport sponsorships – Some local airports will sponsor training costs in exchange for a commitment to work at that airport after licensing.

Research aviation associations and programs in your state or region to find potential grant opportunities to apply for. Attending local Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) meetings can also connect you with various scholarships and mentorship programs.

Flight Training Finance - Aviation Careers

Suppliers of Pilot Training Finance in the USA

  1. Pilot Finance
  2. Sallie Mae
  3. Wells Fargo
  4. Discover Student Loans
  5. College Ave Student Loans
  6. PNC Bank
  7. SunTrust Bank
  8. Bank of America
  9. JPMorgan Chase & Co
  10. Wings Financial Credit Union
  11. Pentagon Federal Credit Union
  12. Aviation Financial Services
  13. Sundance Helicopters Pilot Career Program
  14. Upper Limit Aviation Student Loans
  15. Utah Valley University Aviation Student Loans
  16. ATP Flight School Financing
  17. Lending Club
  18. SoFi
  19. Earnest
  20. CommonBond

Pilot Training Finance Options in the UK

The cost of flying lessons in the UK can range from £10,000 to £100,000 depending on the type of license sought. Here are some options for funding training:

Savings

Paying up front in cash is ideal if funds allow. Work and save up in advance of starting training.  

However, don’t be tempted to hand over large sums in return for the promise of a discount.  There have been all too many instances of students losing £1,000’s because the school has gone out of business.

Student Loans

Government-backed student loans through Student Finance England, Wales, Northern Ireland or SAAS in Scotland can provide tuition and maintenance loans for flight training done as part of an approved higher education course. Maximum funding ranges from £9,250 to £11,100 per academic year depending on where you study in the UK.

Pilot Training Loans

Banks like Lloyds and Barclays offer career development loans that can be used for flight training. These tend to have lower interest rates than personal loans.

Credit Cards

Putting training costs on a credit card allows you to spread payments over time interest-free during a 0% introductory offer period. Only recommended if you will pay off the full balance during the intro period.

Finance Companies

Specialist finance providers like Pilot Flight Training Finance offer loans from £5,000 to £50,000+ specifically tailored for training in the UK. Competitive interest rates and flexible terms are available.

Employer Sponsorship

Some airlines and corporate operators offer sponsorship programs to fund training in return for a commitment to work for them after licensing.

Grants and Scholarships

Organizations like the Honourable Company of Air Pilots, Air League, and the British Women Pilots’ Association offer scholarships up to £5,000 for flight training students in the UK.

Combining multiple funding sources can help make flight training affordable. Plan ahead and research all options.

Flight Training Finance

Other Career Training Finance Options

Crowdfunding

Crowdfunding platforms like GoFundMe allow students to fundraise donations from family, friends, and the public to support their training goals. While not guaranteed, a well-organized crowdfunding campaign can supplement other funding sources. Offering donor perks or documenting your training helps increase engagement.

Combining Multiple Funding Sources 

The best approach often involves combining multiple funding sources – savings, financial aid, loans, GI Bill benefits, etc. Planning ahead and applying early for scholarships and other institutional aid can reduce the amount you need to borrow. Setting up installment plans for training fees at your flight school can also help spread costs out. 

Tips for Managing Costs

Here are some key tips for keeping costs manageable:

  • Comparison shop for the best rates on instruction and aircraft rental.
  • Buy used ore refurbished pilot gear whenever possible.
  • Consider doing ground school online before starting flights to optimize air time. 
  • Train consistently to progress faster and reduce repetition costs.
  • Avoid unnecessary gaps between lessons to prevent retraining time.
  • Pay for training costs upfront each month if possible to avoid financing fees. 
  • Apply for every applicable scholarship and grant, no matter how small.
  • Consider cheaper initial training in gliders or light sport aircraft.
  • Weigh the costs of renting vs. owning your own training aircraft.
  • Get insured as a student pilot to reduce rental insurance costs.

General Financial Planning Tips for Flight Training

Successfully financing your flight training requires both researching your options and practicing good financial habits. Here are some tips:

  • Check your credit score and history – A good credit score can help you qualify for lower interest rates on loans. If needed, work to improve your score before applying.
  • Understand total costs – Research the full cost of licensing at the flight school you choose. Factor in tuition, supplies, housing, transportation and living costs.
  • Apply for scholarships – Take time to complete applications and meet deadlines for any relevant scholarships or grants. Even small amounts help.
  • Fill out the FAFSA – If you’re in the USA, completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid opens up eligibility for grants, work-study and federal student loans.
  • Compare loan options – Explore federal, private and flight-specific loan products. Consider interest rates, fees, loan amounts, and repayment terms.
  • Minimize additional debt – Try to avoid high-interest credit card or payday loan debt on top of student loans. Live frugally as a student.
  • Plan repayment – Understand the monthly payments and timeline for repaying any loans you take out. Pick flexible options that align with your future career and income.
  • Consider cadet programs – Airline-sponsored cadet academies like American Airlines offer a path to become an airline pilot with full financing and mentorship. Competitive to enter but worth exploring.

The key is researching all options thoroughly and applying to as many applicable finance assistance programs as possible. Patience and perseverance will pay off with affordable flight training financing.  With proper planning and research, you can make your dream of obtaining a licence or additional ratings a reality, even on a limited budget. The investment will pay off with an exciting aviation career or a recreational PPL, doing what you love.

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